Seriously, bro? How to survive when your siblings date terrible people

It is one thing to dislike your brother’s girlfriend when you’ve never been that close to him; when you’ve always felt he frankly needs bringing down a peg – or 10 – and suspect she will do the job nicely.

But it’s another when you’ve been best friends since the year you both existed on planet Earth. Try as you might, it is almost impossible to reconcile him being your awesome brother with him going out with the world’s greatest allergen; someone whose speech, looks and mannerisms leave you basically choking on your anger. But you have to, if you’re going to make sure your relationship with your brother is doesn’t go up in flames.

We know the best case scenario – that the scales fall from his eyes and he can see her for what she really is – and we also know, obviously, the worst-case scenario: brother marries the awful girlfriend, and you are stuck with her forever. If they get married, you having made it obvious you don’t like them “will make it awkward,” advises Francis – a girl in that exact sitch. “No one’s going to break up with their gf because their sister doesn’t like them.”

The alternative, she points out, is to wear your heart on your sleeve and be grumpy “forever” – or at least for 11.3 years, the average time a marriage lasts in the UK.

The second best case scenario would be to eventually like her. This, apparently, is what will happen if the bae sticks around long enough to prove she loves your brother; a man whose loveableness you do at least have to agree upon. This is your starting point. “It’s taken three years and two months,” says Emily, another survivor of the terrible-sibling-partner curse. “But I would say we are pretty much friends. She’s still a lunatic, but a more… endearing one these days.”

By focusing on their love of your bro or sis, rather than their terrible laugh/idiocy/ear-bleeding vowel sounds/other, you should find some common ground in which you can start planting. Funny, embarrassing or stupid stories about your sibling, and stories of your sibling having your back/picking up the pieces for you are all good seeds here.

The benefits of this tactic are: 1, it reminds your sibling how close you are and how much you share, and 2. It shows them that, without seeming clingy or overprotective. The message is, if she wants to get with your brother, she gotta be your friend.

‘But what if I can’t do that?!’, I hear you cry – I hear myself cry, actually, because mate: I hear you. I’m in that situation. God knows I’ve tried to like her. I’ve asked questions, initiated conversations, recommended restaurants for her birthday and even helped my bro choose her Christmas presents. But there’s only so far you can put yourself out for someone when you’re receiving the IRL equivalent of two grey WhatsApp ticks. When that happens and you feel the rage bubbling up inside you, there is only one vent: your bff, or, if they’re on the same page (do suss that bit out first) another sibling or parent. In Natalie’s case, this was her mum.

“When we realised neither of us liked her, it made it so much more bearable. We could give each other ‘looks’ across the table when she said something, and vent in whispers in the kitchen when we were clearing plates.” Not only are your ‘rents likely to be on your wavelength, they have perspective: they know from, well, life, that young relationships are unlikely to last. They’ll be a willing listener (and even add their two penny’s worth, if they agree) but they’ll also provide reassurance. They aren’t really going to be triggered by some upstart snogging their child: they know them, in a way only a parent can, and they’ve also been there, dumped that, when they were growing up. Chances are, it’s only a matter of time.

Natalie’s mum was proved right – as 99.9 times out of 100 mums will be. The relationship died, and now her bro is going out with the girl we all want our brothers to go out with: the sister she always wanted. But even when this happens, try and resist telling them “I never liked him/her anyway”, unless they invite you to. I know it’s tempting, but not only would it be super awks if they got back together.

If, however, the relationship thrives – well, soz but the same rules apply. Vent to your bff/mum/dad/whatever by all means, but under no circumstances tell your sibling. It’ll sour the bond between you (to say the least) and far from encouraging them not to date your nemesis, your disapproval might just egg them on. You don’t have to be around them that often, after all, and the one thing you can count on is that you’ll always be their sister. Nurture your relationship – stay in tune with their life, keep the in-jokes flowing (enough to remind them who’s family, not so much it’s obvious to everyone you’re excluding her) and schedule quality time together. I reckon you’ll find that, like a dull headache on a fun, busy day, you’ll suddenly realise Ms or Mr Terrible hasn’t been bothering you for a while.

Here’s hoping, anyway. If not, I’m as buggered as you are, and will follow my friend Francis’ emergency advice – after five long years of sister-in-law pain: “if all else fails, buy passive-aggressive Christmas and birthday presents.” Ouch.

@incogellen 

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